Sunday, August 18, 2019

Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop :: Free Essays Online

Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop Charles Dickens 1841 novel The Old Curiosity Shop, entering its third century, mesmerizes readers with either heartfelt sentimentality to the plight of a homeless thirteen year-old girl, Nell Trent, and her aged Grandfather, as they wander the countryside of England, keeping one step ahead of their horrible dwarf nemesis, Daniel Quilp; or as a "crude sentimental" (Harris 137) journey down the path of individual weakness that lead to the death of them both. In Dickens day, a curiosity shop was an establishment where individuals would go to purchase precious or antique gifts, and it is in one of these shops that thirteen year-old Nell lived with her Grandfather. A short summary of the story is that the Grandfather has an addictive gambling problem, and gambles the money needed to run the shop away, all the while borrowing money from Daniel Quilp, a nasty goblin type figure of a man. The losses amount to the shop being taken over by Quilp, leaving Nell and the Grandfather fleeing to avoid him. They wander the English countryside amongst the throng of carnivals, sideshows, philanthropic souls who try to help them, and downtrodden people who try to exploit them. Their deaths, Nell’s especially, whose Dickens wrote of in a lingering, sentimental tone, are where the discussion of the book has been centered on for over a century-and-a-half. The Old Curiosity Shop began as a series of short stories in a publication Dickens created in 1840 called Master Humphrey’s Clock. With a weekly circulation of over 70,000 readers, Dickens was able to finance the work of The Old Curiosity Shop with the income made from Master Humphrey’s Clock. Emotionally, working under a strenuous monthly deadline proved to be straining on Dickens. In July of 1840, Dickens was telling his friend Lord Jeffrey, editor of The Edinbergh Review, that The Old Curiosity Shop "demands my constant attention" (Page 22,23), and by December of that year Dickens seemed to be on the edge of a mental collapse, telling Lord Jeffrey that the "anguish" of writing under the pressure was "unspeakable, the difficulty tremendous" (Page 30). The story was completed in early 1841 and Dickens began the painstaking steps in putting the short stories into a complete novel. One of the immediate obstacles Dickens encountered (actually his printers, Dickens was busy completing his next novel, Barnaby) was marrying the chapters together in proper sequence.

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